Instagram Launches Selling

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Instagram finally announced their long rumored in-app shopping experience last week. While there were talks at one point of a standalone app for Instagram Shopping (a true QVC for millennials, if you will), it looks like we’ll be able to keep all of our ‘gramming in a single app instead.

Below is a short video that will take you through the entire Instagram checkout process. It looks pretty smooth overall, although the callout that a post is shoppable isn’t very clear, and getting started is still a little clunky. This should improve over time as Instagram starts to get more information about how users are actually engaging with these posts.

For providing this service, Instagram will be taking an undisclosed percentage of the total sale. They will also be storing the users’ credit cards which means that future in-app purchasing from any merchant will be very easy. Between Shopping and the recently announced Fundraisers functionality, Instagram (and therefore Facebook) is going to start building up a database of payment information very quickly.

One outcome of that data collection is that Facebook is going to know more than they already do about what you buy and how you’re buying it. That information, in turn, is going to make their advertising options much more powerful for merchants, who will now be able to get past the attribution problems of e-commerce by measuring transactions directly in the platform where the ads and organic posts live. This is a direct effort at gathering the same kind of purchasing data that has helped Amazon Ads grow to $10 billion in worldwide ad sales over the last few years.

Once the shopping functionality is ready for prime time we should also see ways for brands to extend the checkout options to their influencers and spokespeople. Imagine LeBron James posting his new shoe on Instagram and you being able to go from his post directly into a purchase flow that sends the order off to Nike. In that world, customers don’t even have to engage with Nike directly, and they have the most accurate ROI calculations they’ve ever seen on direct purchasing from third-party posting.

We help a number of our clients run influencer marketing campaigns, but the most difficult part has always been direct attribution back to sales. You can use tagged links, set up promo codes and landing pages, track hourly sales against posting time, even work with custom pixel integrations, but everything is going to be fuzzy at best. The opportunity to see in-platform sales from influencer posts would remove all of that ambiguity and allow brands to dedicate resources to influencers with a proven track record of positive ROI.

As far as when this will roll out to the masses, there’s no timeline at the moment. We looked at the e-commerce platforms that the initial 20 pilot customers were on and all the big players are represented: Demandware, Oracle Commerce, Shopify, and Magento. The press releases also mentioned BigCommerce so it seems like integrations won’t cause any delays.

We believe strongly that extensible shopping is going to be a big thing in the very near future, and it is not going to stop with Instagram. We’ll see shopping on Pinterest, Snapchat, Spotify, embedded brand ads, search results, and more. Omni-channel strategies to date have been built around online (meaning maybe 2 channels: owned e-commerce and Amazon) and offline. In the near future this is going to become a lot more complex but a lot more impactful, and we’re looking forward to helping our clients thrive in the new normal.

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